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22-Year-Old Jesse Galganov Disappears During Hiking Trip in South America

On September 24, Jesse Galganov left his hometown of Montreal for an eight-month backpacking trip through South America and Southeast Asia. The Canadian native was fulfilling his dream of traveling the world while taking a gap year before starting medical school at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia next fall.

Jesse Galganov Alisa Clamen

On September 28, the 22-year-old texted his mother saying he might be unable to communicate for a few days, as he planned to hike the 31-mile Santa Cruz trail through the Cordillera Blanca Mountains. He assured his mother, Alisa Clamen, he’d be reachable after October 2.

It’s now three weeks later, and no one has heard from him. Alisa grew concerned after a few days.

“He is a very responsible adult,” Alisa told Dateline. “At first I thought he may have just extended his trip or taken a longer route.”

Alisa reached out to all of Jesse’s close friends on October 7 to see if anyone had heard from him. Julien Miller, Jesse’s friend from high school, told Dateline Jesse was consistently messaging and Snapchatting friends at the beginning of the trip -- but after September 29, all communication stopped.

“He is an experienced traveler and an excellent communicator,” Julien told Dateline. “We have to assume that if he had access to communication, he would contact us.”

Alisa filed a missing persons report with the U.S. State Department on October 14. She then contacted the Peruvian Embassy, as well as the Canadian and American Embassies, since Jesse is a dual citizen.

Working with the Peruvian National Police, Alisa has been able to confirm her son’s whereabouts before he went missing.

Jesse departed Lima on a Cruz del Sur Bus on September 27 and arrived in Huaraz at 6:30 a.m. on September 28. Security cameras capture Jesse leaving the bus station that morning and heading in the direction of the Kame House Backpacker Hostel, where he was planning to stay that evening.

According to family, there have been a number of conflicting stories surrounding his stay at the Kame House. Police informed Alisa that the employees gave various reports of when Jesse arrived and left the hostel. The local District Attorney is now conducting a criminal investigation.

Authorities also determined there is no record of Jesse registering at the entry point of the Santa Cruz trail. No other hikers or guides on this frequently-traveled route have reported seeing him.

Jesse had a return bus ticket booked for October 2, but did not take that bus. He also had a flight booked to Bolivia on October 5 that went unused.

This week, Alisa flew to Peru to speak with authorities and retrace her son’s steps.

Jesse Glaganov and his mother, Alisa Clamen. Alisa Clamen

“I am the best option for finding my son,” Alisa said. “It’s grueling -- it’s terrible -- and I break down and sob every once in a while, but I don’t give myself that luxury very often because I need to stay focused.”

Jesse’s father, Todd Galganov, has also flown down to Peru to search for his son.

“I’m focused solely on finding my son,” Todd told Dateline in an e-mail. “I have been here all along. [I’ll] never stop.”

Jesse, left, with his dad Todd Galganov, right. Todd Galganov

According to Julien, it is very unlikely that his friend Jesse would intentionally skip prepaid travel, because he was on a strict budget during his eight months abroad.

Peruvian authorities have sent out multiple search parties to locate Jesse, including a high-altitude search and low-level searches.

Alisa said she has hung over 500 flyers in the area to make sure everyone sees Jesse’s information.

“People don’t just disappear,” Alisa told Dateline. “Someone will know something. If I can have everyone out there looking for Jesse, then we will find him.”

Jesse Galganov is described as 5'10” and is approximately 170 pounds with wavy brown hair and brown eyes. Family members are asking anyone with information on Jesse’s whereabouts to e-mail helpusfindjesse@gmail.com.

CORRECTION (Oct. 21, 1:29 p.m.): An earlier version of this article misspelled the surname of a Canadian man missing in South America. He is Jesse Galganov, not Glaganov. The name of a hostel was also misspelled. It is Kame House, not Kane House.